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The Skylarks' War

Written by Hilary McKay

Featured Books for 11+ readers Featured Books for 9+ readers

LoveReading View on The Skylarks' War

Moving and engrossing story about a particularly poignant time in history and about the universal concerns of young people growing up

Winner of the Costa Children's Book Award 2018 | A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month October 2018 |One of our 2018 Books of the Year

Award winning Hilary McKay tells a captivating and deeply moving story of three young people growing up in the years before and during World War One. How their lives were totally changed by the War, how what really happened to the soldiers could never be talked about and how a girl like Clarry suddenly had opportunities because of the war are all touched on in a story that is also about universal adolescent relationships and the timeless concerns of being a teenager. Following their mother’s death at her birth, Clarry and her older brother Peter live a joyless life with their gloomy father. The pair live for their summer holidays in Cornwall with their grandparents which they share with their older cousin Rupert. Here, the trio are free to be themselves and to begin to break away from the constraints of family expectations. When war is declared Rupert enlists: his family is horrified and Clarry and Peter are left trying to work out where he might be, how they themselves should react to the war  and, above all, whether Rupert is safe. Hilary McKay has a rare gift for novels about families and their interplay. Here, she weaves her story round one of the most powerful backdrops in history. And she does so with the lightest of touch which makes her history come alive.

The Costa Judges said: ‘Chime, resonance and sparkle – a truly great read.’

Julia Eccleshare M.B.E

Other Info

Julia Eccleshare's Picks for October 2018:

A Dangerous Game by Malorie Blackman

Uncle Gobb and the Plot Plot by Michael Rosen

Hampstead the Hamster by Michael Rosen

Pick A Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

Stubby: A True Story of Friendship by Michael Foreman

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater

All the Way Home by Debi Gliori

Snow in the Garden by Shirley Hughes

The Skylark's War by Hilary McKay

Race to the Frozen North The Matthew Henson Story by Catherine Johnson

The Skylarks' War Synopsis

The Skylarks' War is a beautiful story following the loves and losses of a family growing up against the harsh backdrop of World War One, from the award-winning Hilary McKay.

Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September - boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer. When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?

The Skylarks’ War is a book like no other: A snapshot of the early 20th century as the First World War approaches and a coming of age novel as we follow these three children through their idyllic summers and the harsh realities of conflict, absence, war and death.  This is a classic in the making and one which will be read by children and adults alike for many decades to come.

The Skylarks' War Press Reviews

...a family book, like those of Noel Streatfeild or R F Delderfield... I find it hard to imagine anyone not enjoying it. You will smile, and you will cry... You will recognise yourself and your friends -- Adele Geras McKay couples warmth and grace with wry humour like nobody else out there -- Katherine Rundell  The Guardian

Hilary McKay's novel is about love as much as war: the effect on children of being deprived of it and the beneficial results on adults of its persistence. McKay is incapable of writing an uninteresting character or a dull scene... I loved it.  Mary Hoffman

I thoroughly loved The Skylarks War. The story is at once intimate and sweeping, with Clarry the shining heart of it all . -- Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of The War That Saved My Life

What a brilliant book. I laughed, I blubbed. The painful jolt of the Great War to one family carefully told.  Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust

Winning as ever, with an overall Secret Garden feel    Kirkus Reviews

I laughed, I cried and I wanted all the characters to be my best friend    Natasha Farrant

One of my favourite books of the year, this is McKay at her absolute finest. -- Fiona Noble  Bookseller Children's Buyer Guide, Highlights of the Season

Hilary McKay is a genius. This beautiful book is so many things simultaneously: complex and subtle, beautiful and raw, timely and timeless. I never wanted it to end. -- Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, Carnegie-shortlisted author of The Smell of Other People's Houses

The Skylarks War is bloody brilliant, the kind of classic that rings with beauty and conviction and heart -stopping emotion. Not read a novel this good since Eva Ibbotson died. -- Amanda Craig

Hilary McKay is surely the heir to Mary Wesley. The Skylarks War is just lovely. -- Charlotte Eyre, The Bookseller

This is McKay at her finest, all the heart and warmth of the Casson family books - with a touch of the Cazalets. It's both a thrilling family adventure and a truthful, heart-breaking examination of the impact of war... [an] exceptional historical novel. -- Fiona Noble  Bookseller, Children's Book of the Month

This book is agony and ecstasy, and never have I read such a human and accessible account of World War I. Vivid, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Hilary McKay's radiant characters touch my heart like real people, friends and loved ones I know well. Possibly the finest writer of our time. -- Elizabeth Wein, New York Times-bestselling author of Code Name Verity and The Pearl Thief

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781509894963
Publication date: 27/12/2018
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books an imprint of Pan Macmillan
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781509894949
Publication date: 20/09/2018
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books an imprint of Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781509894949
Publication date: 20th September 2018
Author: Hilary McKay
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books an imprint of Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 320 pages
Suitable for: 11+ readers, 9+ readers
Recommendations: Julia Eccleshare's Picks

About Hilary McKay

Hilary McKay won the Costa Children's Book Award for The Skylarks' War, the Guardian Fiction Prize for The Exiles, and the Smarties and the Whitbread Award for The Exiles in Love and Saffy's Angel respectively. Hilary McKay's Fairy Tales was her first book with Macmillan Children's Books and is a critically acclaimed collection of clever retellings. You can read her character Rose Casson's blog by clicking here - and Rose's tweets on the right hand side of this page. Q & A with Hilary McKayWhat is your earliest childhood memory?Watching steam trains with my grandfather. He died before I ...

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